Nothing wakes you up quicker than a nice, hot shower—except when the pounding stream of water turns as cold as ice. Considering Murphy’s Law, this probably happened just as you applied shampoo. You probably spend the next frigid minutes frantically rinsing the soap from your hair, imagining the worst.
Take heart. Though a burst water heater that turns your basement into a hot tub is one possible reason you’re shivering, it’s not the most likely. After you recover from the Arctic shock and put on some warm socks, check out these five common reasons why your shower has gone cold.
It’s Just You
Check the other faucets, tubs, and showers in your house. If your shower is the only one that doesn’t spew hot water, congratulations! The showerhead mixing valve, which regulates the proper mix of hot and cold water, is probably broken. With a few inexpensive parts from a plumbing supply store, any DIYer can get the job done fast.
If you discover that the valve is functioning, or you replace it and still have the issue, there may be a problem in the plumbing behind the walls. Before the advent of fancy showerheads with their own mixing valves, many older houses were built with cross-connected pipes that performed the same function. This repair is a bigger fix, so call in a plumber.
Someone Dared To Use The Dishwasher
If your family is growing, the increased number of baths, showers, loads of laundry, and dishwasher cycles may have overtaxed your hot water heater’s maximum capacity. It can take over thirty minutes for a newly-refilled water heater to bring a tankful of cold gallons to the pre-set temperature. If you’re bleaching whites and bathing the kids as your spouse is stepping into the shower, you’re more likely to hear a scream from upstairs.
If you don’t relish the idea of setting up an appointment calendar for water usage, consider upgrading your water heater tank to a larger volume. Better yet, take a look at tankless heaters. Though they’re more expensive at the outset, they’ll save you money long-term because of energy-efficiency and they provide a continuous stream of hot water.
Is It Hot Enough?
A tepid or cold stream of water may be an indication that your water heater is not set to the right temperature. The guidelines for most tank heaters recommend a water temperature of 120 degrees. Some homeowners turn this down in order to save on utility costs, which can be about 10% of your annual bill, yet much lower temperatures can actually encourage bacteria growth throughout your plumbing system.
Make sure your heater is set to close to the recommended temperature. You can raise it higher, but keep in mind the associated possibility of scalding.
Keep It Simple
Sometimes the solution is as simple as checking if an appliance is plugged in. In the case of a gas-powered water heater, check if the pilot light has been inadvertently snuffed out. If your heater is powered by electricity, check to see if a fuse has tripped.
If All Else Fails
If the water heater appears to be on, but you still don’t have hot water, your appliance may need repair. A heating element may be crusted over with mineral deposits, or have completely burned out. The dip tube may have deteriorated, or the temperature control valve may be faulty.
Call your local plumber to pinpoint the problem so that you can finally enjoy a hot shower in peace.